A teenager sitting on the ground against her bed, holding her head in her hand.
Delayed puberty is when teenagers exerience sexual development later than the typical age ranges.

What Are the Signs of Delayed Puberty?

Puberty brings about so many changes for your child. From being a kid, they are now becoming an adult. During this time, your child may struggle and become sensitive to the new changes in their body. It can also be a challenging time for you as a parent. You need to guide your child through puberty and reassure them that these stages are just temporary. Support them with a lot of patience and empathy. For some teenagers, the experience delayed puberty. So, you may ask, what are the signs of delayed puberty?

Puberty is a period when your child’s body begins to develop and change as they become an adult. These changes usually start between ages 8 to 13 in girls and 9 to 15 in boys. Puberty often begins early in girls than in boys.

In girls, the changes that happen to their bodies include breast development, hair growth in the pubic area and armpits, and having menstruation. Their bodies become curvier as their hips get wider and their waists become narrower.

For boys, their voice gets lower and deeper, and hair grows on their face, chest and armpits. Their muscles build up as their chest and shoulders get broader. Their testicles and penis get more prominent.

When boys and girls go through the puberty stage, their emotions become stronger and more intense. They may also start having more sexual thoughts and urges.

What Is Delayed Puberty?

People do not develop in the same way. Every teenager changes at their own pace. If your child does not experience any physical sign of puberty by the age of 14 for boys and 13 for girls, they may have delayed puberty. Delayed puberty is a condition in which the body’s sexual maturity occurs later than the typical ranges of ages.

Puberty can be delayed for different reasons. The most common is the constitutional delay of growth and puberty or CDGP. It occurs when a healthy child has a slower rate of physical development than average. Sometimes, it runs in families. If you or a member of your family developed puberty later than usual, your child might become a late bloomer too.

Malnutrition can cause delayed puberty. Your child needs a healthy and balanced diet for his body to develop properly. Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa, excessive physical exercise and even stress can contribute to the delay.

Another reason for having delayed puberty can be due to some underlying medical conditions. If your child has an existing chronic illness like diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, or cystic fibrosis, they may go through puberty at a later age. Their body may have a hard time developing and growing because of their illness.

A child who undergoes chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer may also have delayed puberty. Problems in the pituitary or thyroid glands can also lead to delayed puberty. These glands secrete hormones that are important for the growth and development of the human body.

Other genetic and hormonal disorders that affect the endocrine gland can also delay pubertal growth. These are conditions such as hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, Turner syndrome and Klinefelter syndrome.

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What Are the Symptoms of Delayed Puberty?

The lack of physical signs of puberty is the primary indicator that your child may have delayed puberty.

For girls who have delayed puberty, you may notice that there is a lack of any breast development by age 12. They may not have begun their menstruation by the age of 16. There may be a time lapse of five years or more from the beginning of breast growth to their first menstrual period.

A boy who has delayed puberty may seem to be short in height compared to their peers. Their penis and testicles may not start to grow by age 14. It may take more than five years to complete their adult genital development. They also lack pubic hair by age 15.

The symptoms of delayed puberty may look like other medical conditions. If you think your child is not developing as they should, it is best to consult a doctor.

How Is Delayed Puberty Treated?

Treatment for delayed puberty depends on your child’s age and overall health. The doctor needs to identify the cause of the problem. The treatment usually involves regular checks on height, weight and Tanner pubertal staging measurements, and measuring levels of related hormones.

If it is a constitutional delay, it usually does not need any treatment. Your child will eventually develop normally. Some doctors may prescribe supplemental sex hormones to induce puberty. If the doctor finds an underlying problem, your child may be referred to a pediatric endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in treating children who have growth problems.

Treatment may involve hormone therapy for cases of hypogonadism in which the sex glands, testes in men and the ovaries in women, produce few or no hormones. In other cases, a long-term sex hormone replacement or sex steroid is necessary if there is a deficiency of testosterone or estrogen. Some conditions may require surgery to correct an anatomical problem.

An Overview

Delayed puberty can be difficult for your child to deal with. They might feel depressed and embarrassed about being different from their friends who grow and develop accordingly. A counselor or therapist can help your child sort out their feelings. You have to reassure your child with your love and help them cope with their social concerns. It is also essential that you encourage them to make healthy lifestyle choices.